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Letters  

Energy poverty in BC

I’m writing in regard to a letter published on March 2, 2017 “Bills causing energy poverty”.  

I also live in the country and have a wood stove that is not large enough to heat the whole house.  Since I moved in (2015) I have not ever turned on any baseboard heaters.  I have pedestal fans from where I lived before; for cooling in the summer.  Now I use them for moving heat.  In spite of this my bedroom has been between 50 and 60 degrees F all winter.  I use 4 blankets on the bed and it is very cold when I first get in, so when I get up during the night to stoke the stove, I make sure I pull the covers over to conserve some heat.  I leave two fans on all night to move air to that end of the house.  I also do not use my ensuite bathroom because it would be like using an outhouse in the winter.  It’s not very nice; especially since I came from a house with central gas heat and a programmable thermostat, but it is livable and I manage to keep my electricity bill down to an affordable level.  Pedestal fans use very little energy.  I am a senior electrical engineer (retired) with mostly industrial but substantial utility experience in electrical power applications.
 
I hope people are aware of the RIB rate report process being done by BCUC.  You can find it here.  The BCUC has written that they will complete their report to the Minister in the first quarter of this year.  Here you can also find that Fortis claimed their equivalent flat rate for 2016 would have been  $0.11433/kWh.  That is still ridiculously high for a hydro-rich province.  I have submitted several reports that can be found on this site.
 
The problem we have is not just the two-tier rate, but that an equivalent flat rate would still be too high for a hydro-rich province.  The government (BCUC) says that they want postage-stamp rates, meaning they are the same throughout the province, yet we in Fortis-land pay substantially higher rates than those with BC Hydro.  The whole rate scheme in this province is set up so that apartment dwellers and those with natural gas, who make up the majority in Vancouver, have artificially low rates that are subsidized by all-electric home owners and everyone in Fortis-land.  This allows them to publish an illusion that Vancouver (and hence implied BC) has the third lowest electricity cost of major cities in the country.  The truth is that, in the absence of the two-tier rate system and if we truly had postage-stamp rates, then we would be among the highest cost of electricity in the country.  Please don’t misunderstand me here; the RIB rate structure is the biggest and most unfair problem of all; but I’m saying it is not the only problem.
 
Vancouver is phasing out gas heat over a long time so eventually this illusion will be lost because of this, unless this province takes action sooner to fix the problem like Ontario is starting to do.  Ontario has some reason for its high rates because of the nuclear fiasco they’ve had.  What is the excuse here in BC?  As an aside, there is one person vying for leader of the federal Conservative party who wants to proliferate nuclear power and create extremely toxic waste that will last for thousands of human lifetimes.  Also, our Candu reactors produce weapons-grade spent fuel from the reactors.  Remember when we sold one to India and started the SE Asia nuclear arms race.
 
BC Hydro has been borrowing money to pay a dividend (tax) to the provincial coffers.  Fortis is a ‘foreign’ company based in Newfoundland and I guess is drawing huge profits out of this province.  If there was free-enterprise competition here (or an honest government), you can bet that our rates would be much lower.  Fortis is advertising low rates in Edmonton to compete with EPCOR.  The biggest problem that we have here is that our choices seem to be the Communist Party (NDP) or a very dishonest Socialist Party (Liberal).  Whatever happened to the Conservative and Social Credit parties here?  This is a rich province and should have small government that allows the people to enjoy the riches through free enterprise and not suck them dry to feed their bureaucracies and waste in dishonest advertising. 
 
There is absolutely no reason for there to be any energy poverty anywhere in this hydro-rich province.  Dishonesty and mismanagement have created this.  One reason is that BC Hydro used to provide a rate to encourage all-electric homes and then pulled the rug out from these people and put them into energy poverty.  If it was private enterprise doing that, then the government would be crying fraud.
 
The BCUC sets rates in government legislation, which is an Act of Law.  I believe that the RIB rate structure in this law violates Article 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms based on “equal benefit of the law”.  A successful charter challenge could then lead to a successful class-action lawsuit to reclaim unlawful billing charges under the law set by BCUC and this deceptive government.  But I am not a lawyer and this should be done by a lawyer to succeed.

Jerrilynn DeCock



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